Forest plan record of decision released

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Elk cool off in a lake on the Swan Crest.

Like Glacier National Park, the Flathead National Forest is once again in business after the longest government shutdown in history.

A key document that was delayed by the shutdown has been released for public view ó the final record of decision for the new Flathead National Forest plan is now available online. The decision is the last step in finalizing the plan, which the Forest Service has been working on for more than five years.

Another key project the Forest Service is working on is setting up the resource advisory committees for its Secure Rural Schools Act projects.

Monies from the program go toward local infrastructure and trail projects. For example, the funds in the past have been used to treat the North Fork Road for dust in the summer months.

But the committee that oversees the projects and how the funds will be spent hasnít been fully vetted. The government shutdown delayed the background checks of new committee members, so right now, there isnít a quorum, Flathead National Forest spokeswoman Janette Turk noted.

She said the hope is to have a full committee on board within 60 days. Meanwhile, people who have suggestions for projects should contact the ranger station offices in which the project would occur.

The Forest Service will take proposals until Feb. 28, Turk said.

She also said the expectation is that employees who are due back pay will see deposits into their accounts by the middle of the week. The payroll was processed by the Forest Serviceís national human resources team on Sunday.

Hiring of firefighters on a national level, which also takes place in winter months, actually continued despite the shutdown, Turk said, because it was considered a public safety matter. But the Forest still has to make its seasonal hires for other posts. Like the Park Service, the Forest also employs hundreds of seasonal summer employees each year.

The record of decision is available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents. Then search for Flathead Forest and follow the links.

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